Medical issue possible in collision

Police investigating why van crossed line in Robinson

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Investigators trying to determine why a North Fayette woman veered Friday across the center line of a Robinson road and struck the car of a Pittsburgh police commander head-on, seriously injuring her, are looking into the possibility that the driver suffered a medical problem.

Cmdr. Linda Rosato-Barone, 54, a 32-year veteran, underwent surgery Friday night at Allegheny General Hospital for extensive injuries. She suffered a broken pelvis, femur and ribs in the crash, which occurred along Steubenville Pike Road around 3 p.m.

She was listed Saturday in serious condition.

"Everything went well. She is reported to be in a lot of pain but the doctors report that she came through the surgery well," Pittsburgh police spokeswoman Diane Richard said. "Extensive surgery was performed on her lower extremities."

Ms. Richard cited an update to police supervisors from Cmdr. Kathy Degler, who was at AGH Friday night, that "indicated that hospital personnel reported that the other driver sustained a medical emergency situation which incapacitated her."

Robinson Detective Dan Dugan confirmed that was an angle investigators were exploring.

"A doctor ... said that they believe that that other driver might have suffered a 'medical episode,' but we haven't confirmed that. We don't know that to have happened. We don't know that to not have happened," Detective Dugan said.

Robinson police Saturday identified the driver of the minivan that struck the commander's department-issued Chevrolet Impala as Barbara Ann Loniero, 45.

Ms. Loniero was in stable condition at Allegheny General Hospital. Calls were not being accepted at her home phone.

"It's my understanding that [Ms. Loniero] doesn't know what happened," Detective Dugan said. "There were no signs of any alcohol or any narcotics."

There were no skid marks around Ms. Loniero's minivan and no preliminary evidence of speeding in the 45-mph zone where the crash occurred, Detective Dugan said.

City police are assisting Robinson investigators with the crash reconstruction.

Detective Dugan said that although Ms. Loniero's vehicle was clearly on the wrong side of the road it was premature to say whether she would face any charges in the crash. More information is needed about whether any medical situation led to the crash or if her vehicle experienced a mechanical failure.

"Everything has to go in baby steps," Detective Dugan said.

Both vehicles had current, valid inspection stickers, according to the detective.

The commander's car has a data recorder that will be reviewed by police.

Blood from the two drivers will be tested as a matter of course for the presence of drugs or alcohol.

Witnesses who were traveling behind Ms. Loniero have been identified but have not been interviewed yet, Detective Dugan said.

The crash also injured Cmdr. Rosato-Barone's teenage daughter, who was a passenger in her vehicle. The girl was treated and released.

All passengers were wearing seat belts, Detective Dugan said.

Ms. Richard said members of Cmdr. Rosato-Barone's large family were with her at the hospital. The commander, who oversees a division called Bureau Support Services, has many relatives who are Pittsburgh police officers, and her husband, Sam, retired from the force earlier this year.


Jonathan D. Silver: or 412-263-1962.


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